Judging Java: KFC


Written By Jake Dabkowski, Coffee Columnist

2 Globes

I have had a lot of fast food coffee in my life, and something about them is so consistently mediocre. When I say consistently mediocre, I mean that they are a specific type of consistently mediocre—plenty of regular coffee is mediocre and unlike fast food coffee. What I mean is that fast food coffee is always the same: it’s served at too high of a temperature, it always has the same burnt taste, and it usually has an underwhelming caffeine quantity.

The thing about this week’s cup is that I went into it with higher expectations than I usually would when getting fast food, because this week I went to KFC (specifically, the KFC in the Cranberry Township Walmart).

I consider KFC to be in the top tier of fast food restaurants, and I would go so far as to say that they are the best fast food chain restaurant that has stores easily accessible everywhere. Obviously, places like Shake Shack and In-N-Out Burger score higher, but you can’t get them everywhere.

KFC consistently delivers, and I think that it’s a philosophy when analyzing fast food restaurants that applies to all of them. McDonald’s does a lot of things; they cast a wide net. Everything at McDonald’s is relatively fine, but very few things on their menu stand out as “must trys.” Then you look at a restaurant like KFC or Popeyes: they specialize in Chicken, and they’re always going to deliver quality fried chicken.

In the past couple of months, there’s been a major marketing push from every fast food restaurant to have a fried chicken sandwich. It started when Popeye’s introduced theirs, and every restaurant followed. Literally everyone has a chicken sandwich—KFC, McDonald’s, Burger King, The Cheesecake Factory, even Airheads released their own limited edition chicken sandwich. The Chicken Sandwich Wars has become so big that they even have their own wikipedia page, which is surprisingly extensive.

But when you look at who is consistently listed by chicken sandwich critics, restaurants like KFC and Popeyes are always being listed high on the list, while general fast food restaurants that happen to have a chicken sandwich (like McDonald’s) tend to be ranked lower. The exception to this rule is Burger King, which has a fantastic chicken sandwich, but that’s only because Burger King and Popeyes are owned by the same company and they have a similar sandwich.

But it’s not just the sandwich that KFC has to offer. Their Nashville Hot Tenders are the best chicken tenders you can get at any fast food restaurant. They are incredible, and I have never eaten them and not immediately thought afterwards “wow, those KFC Nashville Hot Tenders were very good, I am glad that I ate them and look forward to someday eating them again.” They also have some of the best french fries any fast food restaurant has.

Like I said, every cup of fast food coffee that I have had has been relatively the same and mediocre, but every other fast food restaurant is nothing compared to KFC. When I saw that KFC was hyping up their own coffee, I was very excited to give it a try.

Unfortunately, their coffee did not live up to my expectations. It failed to make any impression beyond “it’s just coffee.” It wasn’t a particularly bad cup, but it didn’t have its own identity. The flavor was bland, it had a funky aftertaste, and it had so little caffeine that it failed to give me any sort of energy. The most I can actually say about it is that it was a cup of coffee served in a coffee cup with the KFC logo on it, which was pretty funny.